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Tuesday 24 November 2015

The previous Sunday local net on GB3IR

I don't often post about the regular local net on GB3IR unless there is something of note, and, although this is a couple of days late coming, there was something noteworthy the previous Sunday.

First off, the Sunday evening net on GB3IR is open to anyone who can access the repeater either direct on RF or over Echolink, it's not strictly local and it's nice to hear new voices on the air.

So, how is it noteworthy, by use of the Leixen VV-898 and my homebrew yet unfinished dipole of course, it was still hung up and I thought to save the batteries on my handhelds (of which I have reprogrammed to include all 2-meter analogue and System Fusion voice repeaters in the UK), performance wise the antenna was getting into the repeater fine (though I could just as easily use a very leaky dummy load or a piece of wet string though of course I'd not recommend that given that I am very close to the repeater).

This has been the first time the VV-898 has been used for a Sunday net on IR since removal from my previous car, it has not been fitted to the new car as it would be much easier for me to fit a radio with a detachable front, hence my interest in the Yaesu FTM-100DE (which I think is an after-Christmas purchase though I am seeing this rig in the flesh soon to see what it is like), though I am also interested in this rig for the benefit of System Fusion, the ability to turn up the TX power once I have my intermediate, and the APRS side of things as well as I'd like to get a bit more into that, all of these things are beyond the VV-898 (except the APRS with a little bit of extra hardware), hence why it has been now demoted to home radio, and it only puts out 10-watts anyway

The VV-898 seems to be performing well as a home rig on the homebrew dipole, the next thing to do is put the antenna outside and see what it can really do, but first there is waterproofing to do, as for the VV-898, it will be taking place in most Sunday nets on GB3IR and perhaps any simplex nets once I get the antenna outside the window, I just need to waterproof the coax join, I was initially going to use black Sugru but I may use blue Sugru instead as it matches the blue on the dipole elements..

As for the Sunday net itself, nothing of note to mention really apart from the antenna and rig I used, just leaves me to finish it off, roll on payday and a trip to somewhere I can get blue Sugru from

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 22 November 2015

How to get a Leixen VV-898 to transmit and recieve on APRS

Just exactly how do you get a Leixen VV-898 to transmit and receive on APRS? This is how it is done.

Firstly you need to find the pinout for the mic, a Google search will bring it up in no time, using my method you may also need to find an Ethernet pinout as well, but be aware that the pin numbering may be opposite to that of the VV-898 mic plug diagram, it remains for you to match and note the colours.

Next you need an interface, I already had one lying around but my shack computer has no physical COM port onboard so a USB to Serial adaptor had to be used, the one I have is a Prolific type, be aware that these may need older drivers as newer drivers reject some cheap programming cables that are allegedly based on a Prolific chip but it is in fact a non-genuine chip, and the Serial adaptors may have one of these rather than a genuine Prolific chip, my serial adaptor appears to have a genuine chip in it unlike my mass of programming cables and TTL lead, my interface is wired up to pin 7 on the serial plug (RTS) though you can wire it to pin 4 (DTR).

On your computer you need to install a sound card TNC, I use UZ7HO's Soundmodem, there is a high speed version as well but we do not want this for APRS, it needs no installation, just extract from the zip file to a convenient folder (desktop on my shack computer with the icon pinned to the taskbar), set up the modem as required (APRS is 1200 baud AFSK), then set it up for the PTT on your COM port, in my case this was COM 7 but yours may differ, unless you have a physical COM port which is always COM 1 (modern computers rarely have more than 1 onboard COM port)

Next you need to set up your APRS client, I use APRSIS32, this client can be used without a radio to connect to the Internet, and also as an iGate or digipeater, but we don't need that functionality and it would require the appropriate NoV and a full license from what I understand, it needs to be able to talk to sound card TNC, this is found on localhost (unless the machine you're running the client on is on your network separately from sound card TNC), if you have a second sound card in your computer (I do) then ensure that is set up in the sound card TNC first so your main sound card can be used for other things like Echolink for example, plug a lead into the back of the VV-898, I placed a ground-loop isolator on this line to eliminate unwanted noise, power it up, and tune to the APRS frequency (in the UK this is 144.800 MHz, in other European countries it should be the same, but check first before you transmit), ensure you have disabled the APRS-IS side of APRSIS32, and it is not set up as an iGate or digipeater (turn off options for RF to IS and IS to RF and if you wish disable Internet access entirely), if the soundmodem is working and APRSIS32 is talking to it you should see a list of callsigns and other items scrolling on the top left of the window.

Now you can test your interface, tune the rig to a clear frequency or connect it to a dummy load, and connect the circuit to the mic socket, the rig should do nothing, if the red light comes on and it has gone into transmit this indicates a problem with the interface wiring, if not you're good to go.

At this stage don't plug the audio feed into the computer, if you are doing this into a dummy load there should be no need to identify, you should still be able to listen on a handheld placed close to the dummy load and tuned to the same frequency, you will also need to get the volume set up correctly, you can use existing APRS transmissions as a reference, if your interface is built with a potentiometer, as mine is, you may need to adjust this, too quiet the iGate and other stations won't receive the transmissions properly, too loud is just as bad and may cause interference, once you have it right, connect your rig back to the antenna and send a packet to APRS, if it is heard by an iGate you should appear on, if not your packet was not received properly by the iGate if at all, in this case check all your settings carefully.

Once it all works give yourself a pat on the back, you've got a radio with no TNC port to transmit APRS packets successfully.

Though if you are in my situation and want to use the same rig for voice, just disconnect the leads and reconnect the mic, job done.

73 de M6RSQ

(note that this isn't an exact guide, the full ins and outs are a lot more detailed)

Saturday 21 November 2015

Another APRS update

After soldering an offcut of Ethernet cable into the auto-key interface I originally built for the CB gateway (including removal of the relay as the Leixen VV-898 can RX without a mic connected), I managed, after some trial and error, to successfully transmit an APRS packet which was  received by MB7USD, the antenna was still indoors and power was my max allowed 10 watts (though cable losses and SWR may have caused it to be reduced some at the antenna itself, before actually transmitting a packet I located a clear frequency to check the key circuit was working, it was working just fine.

After this test I removed the interface line from the mic socket, I then moved the rig so it is now located on top of my Grant II to make sure I had some desk space, this then amounted to a recheck of the SWR to make sure it was the same, it is, and all I need to do is finish the antenna (I was thinking Sugru for the centre) and hang it up outside, I may also cut the coax shorter as it is RG58 and on 2-meters it is a bit lossy for my liking.

So, I can now transmit on the APRS frequency from home, just need to do that for the car but as I mentioned in my previous post I can use my mobile phone as a stop-gap

Another day and another success in Amateur radio

73 de M6RSQ

APRS update

I have got APRS working on both the laptop and my phone, the latter will be used in the car until I obtain the Yaesu FTM100DE which has this on board anyway, and both report position to APRS-IS no problem, I have yet to get the Leixen VV-898 to transmit on the frequency as I've not had chance yet today to remove the relay and old CB related cabling from the auto-key unit and wire in an Ethernet cable.

What does this mean? It means that anyone, licensed or not, can see my current location on or similar, just need to search for my callsign, which will have a - then a number after it, mobile use (in the car) is -9, my laptop currently is -10 (internet only as my laptop rarely if ever leaves the house) and my shack should show as either -0 or no number after my callsign.

I'll post a bit more later once I have the VV-898 operational on APRS, time to grab a cup of tea and a hot soldering iron.

73 de M6RSQ

A bit more time dedicated to radio

Firstly with my Leixen VV-898 on the bench rather than in the car (I had replaced the fuse holder for a mini-blade type after the regular one fell apart) and connected to the power supply I thought maybe it is a good idea to play with antennas so I dug out my 2-meter slim-Jim that I had built at the club some time ago, only to find it was not working as it should (the SWR was a bit high so I figured it was kaput as it had been on the floor in the hallway for some time), a T2LT cut to the right length was my next attempt, again this did not work, then finally I relented and assembled a dipole, this too, despite being cut to about the right length, was not working with a high VSWR, though it was lower on 70cm, what gave? Turns out the choke I had wound was too far from the feedpoint, so I cut the excess coax between the choke and antenna out (I did this so I did not have to redo the choke), after resoldering the antenna elements (two pieces of the neutral conductor from high-current twin and earth cable) to the coax at their new position and rehanging the antenna from my winter washing line in the living room and reconnecting it to the rig, the SWR had dropped though still read between 1.5 and 1.7 on the meter, better than it was but could still be better however it handles the 10 watts the radio gives it fine, all I now have to do is finish it off and hang it up outside the window.

I have also had a look into APRS, as there appears to be transmissions on the APRS frequency in the locality, which I believe is coming from MB7USD as aprs,fi isn't really showing a lot otherwise, I have been working to get the VV-898 to be able to TX on APRS but thus far have only got it to receive into my shack computer, and I don't yet have a passcode to do Internet-only operations as yet, as I have decided to decommission both my FRN gateways indefinitely some time ago as I want to focus a bit more on the Amateur side of things I plan to modify the auto-key circuit I built for the CB gateway to use it with the VV-898 for APRS as it sounds like something that might be worth playing with and the Yaesu FTM-100DE has this onboard as well and as I plan to get one of these for the car (as the box can live under the seat or in the boot out of the way) I may as well use the APRS feature on it, I'll hopefully be looking at one of these up close and personal at the next club meeting intermediate training pending.

I also have the APRS software installed on my laptop computer, of course not having a passcode as yet means I cannot transmit onto the APRS system but that should change soon, with a crude but working antenna up I should have no problems transmitting all being well, so let's see what APRS is all about

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 8 November 2015

A catch up after a busy few weeks

I have had a lot on over the last few weeks, but I have some good news, I made it to the Newark Hamfest after going to a local Toyota dealership and obtaining a 2009 Toyota Aygo Platinum, which at the moment lacks rigs but does have a Parrot handsfree and an aftermarket SD/USB MP3 virtual CD changer, and the only Amateur radio activity I have done from this car is by means of Echolink on my phone.

The hamfest was what I imagined it to be, a couple of the other club members were also in attendance, I went down in the hope to get a 2-meter rig for home that was SSB capable that I could run off a slim jim or a homebrew 1/4 wave groundplane antenna, though I am going to put this on hold at this time because I'm having the windows replaced in the not too distant future and I did not get a rig anyway as there were no suitable used rigs in my price range, perhaps after Christmas which will also be when my motor insurance should go down as I've had no claims (touch wood)

I have also begun my Intermediate training, which I have been eagerly looking forward to, it's going to be a while before I can get that 2x0 call but it will be a great day when I do, and hopefully as soon as I pass I will progress onto the full license, which is my ultimate goal, the more I progress in the hobby the more I am interested in it.

I haven't been as active on the air as I would have liked of late and need to get back into the habit of going on air, I believe that after the disaster of an MOT that my old car went through only to ultimately be scrapped I feel that I lack a bit of motivation, I should be happy as I have another car now but perhaps I still miss my old car.

Anyway, I should be on air more frequently soon

73 de M6RSQ/26CT730

Friday 4 September 2015

Uncertain times in mobile radio use and the trip to Newark

My plan was to attend the Hamfest in Newark at the end of this month, and as part of that plan I was to submit my car for it's MOT at the first available date at the beginning of September, that day was Wednesday, unfortunately the car has badly failed it's MOT and I am having to part with it.

However I may still be able to get to the Hamfest, my intention is to buy another car as soon as I can, the Hamfest takes place at the end of the month and is only a fiver to get into, however there now remains the issue of the rigs.

Both rigs and antennas have been removed from the car, all that is left is the holes in the dashboard and ashtray lid where the screws went in, my plan would normally be to install these items into the new car as soon as it is possible to do so, however the car I have seen is a much more recent car and I don't feel comfortable screwing the rigs down to the dashboard, I may need very strong adhesive pads for this until such times as I feel happy to screw the rigs down, and finding suitable rig locations does not help when I do not have the car yet, also a means to get power to them from the car's battery needs to be sourced.

I can still get on air to a degree at home, for CB my Grant II can be connected to the excalibur antenna (though not for SSB as interference is a great risk), for Amateur I still have my handies, which is great as I live close enough to GB3IR and can get into GB3HG, I also have Echolink on the shack computer for the time being

So, lets see what happens

73 de M6RSQ/26CT730

Sunday 23 August 2015

Progress with the shack

I may or may not have mentioned in my last post about rearranging the shack somewhat, as it stands the work I have done thus far is as follows
  • Moved the existing Maplin PSU to the shack desk and placed above it a Unilab multi-voltage power supply that I acquired recently, the Unilab supply is unique in that is has AC and DC output and the mains cable coming out of the front, it also has a carry handle, both these power supplies are in the place where my Midland BaseCamp446 used to be, that is on top of the supplies
  • removed an empty computer case to bring the top of the two in-use computers level with the desk, freeing up some space to move my soldering station and allow easy access to the power leads for the various chargers and power supplies.
  • Brought in the President Grant II CB radio and connected it to power and my homebrew extension speaker (after rewiring the speaker cable), this awaits some form of antenna
  • placed the chargers for the Wouxun and the two Baofeng handhelds in easy reach, the two Baofeng chargers are on top of the Grant II temporarily, the Wouxun charger is on top of the soldering station base unit.
  • Nailed a hook into the wall for my Sony MDR-V150 headphones, I chose these over the Sony MDR-XD200 headphones, the MDR-V150 headphones are plugged into the front port of the shack computer
  • Relocated the DVD rack that is behind the television in my living room further back to allow the shackcam to be relocated further back until it can be swapped out for a Raspberry Pi on the network, a possibility as I should have one Ethernet cable spare after an IPTV installation which is to come, thus freeing the camcorder currently in use for other things.
To do is mount the monitor to the wall, the current monitor is a Samsung SyncMaster 152v, this is a 4:3 monitor with a 100x100 VESA mount, once this is done further desk space will be made available for the shack and accommodation of new radios for other bands will be possible, a base 2-meters rig is something I am after and I plan to use one with a homebrew antenna, hopefully I can get a suitable all-mode rig at Newark in September as right now I am stuck with 2-meters FM on handies and mobile. as for CB, the Grant II is my new home rig as I plan to part ways with the Moonraker FA5000, antenna wise, for 2-meters I plan to cobble something together and for CB I may get away with my existing or a second T2LT.
I am pleased with progress so far and hope to have things finished in the next week or so, starting with the monitor as moving it to the wall is priority number one as the more desk space I can free up the better

73 de M6RSQ/26CT730

Saturday 22 August 2015

Long overdue update

Due to personal reasons radio has not been at the front of my mind, nor has a lot of things to be honest aside from work where I have been exceptionally busy, my last radio activity was the "big net" for a year of legal AM/SSB CB, I set up at Tan hill but had no replies whatsoever, was also still too windy to put up the T2LT and my fibreglass mast is in need of a little TLC.

On the Amateur front, I am still attending the club, however not been on air so much lately, however I am making some major changed to the shack, first and foremost attaching the computer monitor to a wall mount to free up some extra desk space, the main 7A PSU has been moved from the shelves to the desk, above it is an ageing Unilab variable voltage PSU with both AC and DC outputs though I've not connected any load to this yet, and on top of those is my Midland BaseCamp446.

The Moonraker FA5000 CB will be removed from the shack, as it still works I may sell it on, my Midland Alan 78 Plus Multi B may also be sold on as I have my President Grant II and may be able to pick up another legal AM/FM/SSB CB as these come onto the market through the usual outlets.

Antenna wise, only my loft CB antenna and tuner at the moment, I still have the part-finished 446 bazooka antenna but have not put it on air or even tuned it properly, I still have a slim-Jim for 2-meters lying about but I was thinking for the sake of discretion to build an extremely lightweight 2-meter groundplane antenna out of nothing more than some bits of copper wire and an SO239 chassis socket, a new 2-meter rig is needed in the shack so I don't have to worry about handies and the batteries running out, I may be able to pick a used but working unit up from the National Hamfest next month.

Going back to the CB rig side of things, my Grant 2 developed an unusual issue during the "big net" weekend back in June, normally on SSB there is no power unless you speak, not according to the S-meter on the Grant 2, which was generating some sort of noise, this may have been the mic as it has since stopped after I did some fiddling, on AM and FM audio seemed to be fine, but despite this the fiddling with the mic seemed to have cured the problem for now.

I am making steady progress to get back into more radio, and maybe get my significant other interested, after all if we're both licensed we can do anything Amateur radio related together, and I would like that as I do know there are plenty of couples out there that are both licensed, so why not me and my significant other

Right, I'm caught up, probably be next posting from or about the National Hamfest unless I have some major QSOs in the mean time, also I may get some HF work done if I can get a suitable HF antenna built and a suitable rig acquired, another hamfest one I think.

73 de M6RSQ/26CT730

Thursday 4 June 2015

A year of legal AM and SSB CB

The end of this month will be the first year of us having legal AM and SSB CB, and a "big net" is planned, so what I plan to do, depending on weather, is take a trip to a high point, Tan Hill or similar, and get on the CB for the first time in a while, the Grant 2 has been idle for a while and needs it's legs stretching, so a trip up to a high point will be good for it.

So, antenna wise, the T2LT antenna dropped through the car's sunroof (on it's fibreglass mast which I will have to somehow attach to the car for support) rather than the orbitor that is already on the car, power, initially I was thinking off the 7Ah battery, then onto the car's own battery later once the 7Ah can't deliver enough power, the car of course can be started and stopped as needed to keep the battery topped up, my Sony headphones will be used to provide a better means of monitoring weak signals as always, the station will be identified as "static mobile".

I may initially set up the station (just on the orbitor) on the 27th at Whashton Road car park just after midnight, though I'll drive there before, and see if I can get any QSOs in, and relocate to Tan Hill later in the day after having some sleep, I may return to Tan Hill on the 28th as well for this, and I hope to get a reasonably sized log of all contacts, I've not logged any CB contacts for a while so this will make for a good opportunity to get some CB contacts logged.

If you are on air across the  weekend the net takes place, give me a shout on either channel 14 mids AM or channel 27 mids USB, I myself will be calling on these channels.

73 de 26CT730

Monday 4 May 2015

GB3HG success

I am pleased to report that I am able to access GB3HG and access it well from my home QTH, had a short QSO with a station in York before the Baofeng's battery hit critical.  You may now be asking why I did not switch to the Wouxun, this was for one very good reason, my previous attempt to access GB3HG was with the Baofeng, and in the interest of a fair run I thought it best I stick to this radio for today.

Tomorrow hopefully will see another go on HG, this time the radio will be my Leixen VV-898 in the car, paired to the cheap Moonraker antenna on the roof, the rig can hear HG no problems in Richmond and Catterick, so it's only fair to see if the rig can open HG.

I will let you know how I get on.

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 26 April 2015

ShackCam tests, one week on

The shackcam has been running for one week and I am pleased to report that on it's current hardware (after some bodging by me to the Dazzle hardware) that is is working just fine, the website itself has been updated to include my Amateur callsign as the primary callsign, with my CT callsign being secondary as it is not really an official callsign and I've not done a lot of CB or 446 work in a while and the bulk of my transmissions have been on 2-meters since my license came through.

I plan to move all my radio operations (except /m and /p of course) back to the shack in the coming weeks, my handhelds are being charged elsewhere and Echolink is currently running on my laptop though I plan to keep it on there for the foreseeable future, but it's on my phone as well

With the shackcam working as it should be I am happy, the shack computer will be shut down at some stage to allow the monitor to be wall mounted to free up the desk space it currently occupies for such items such as radio chargers, so expect to see changes soon

73 de M6RSQ/26CT730 on CB/PMR446

Sunday 19 April 2015

ShackCam tests

I've put my shackcam back on for testing, this is in part after I discovered a fault with the FTPd running on my server (the server itself is also visible on the shackcam as it is on the shelves that seperate my living room between living area and shack), and to ensure the hardware is still up to the job until a better camera can take it's place, it appears to be but it has been erroring out periodically.

The camera will be on for the next week in order to ascertain if it is working as it should be, if it is then  I have no further work that I need to do, if not then I will need to do some further work, so I can put a proper 2/70 rig into the shack as I plan to operate on both the 2-meter and 70cm bands in the coming months,

The link for the shackcam is unchanged and is on the right hand side of this page.

73 de M6RSQ (or 26CT730 on CB/PMR446)

Sunday 12 April 2015

Blackpool rally

In light of missing the Ripon Rally due to family commitments I made the journey over to Blackpool for the rally there, was bigger than I thought it would be but worth the trip to see what these things are all about.

The journey was fine until I approached and entered Cumbria, wherein the weather took a turn for the worse, this continued onto the M6 through Lancashire, getting better the closer to Blackpool I got,

On arrival at the venue I was spending a lot of time parking my car as there were no spots available, eventually one became available and £5 later I was in the venue, which had the vast majority of the clubs from the North West in attendance along with various sellers of amateur radio equipment, along with used equipment stands, and the RSGB, selling books and offering membership, which I took out and got a free Baofeng BF-888S UHF as well as the latest RadCom (which I shall take along to the club in case anyone wants to read it that is not a member

I was hoping to pick up a 2/70 mobile or base unit, used of course, for home that I could run on the slim-jim or some other homebrew antenna that could potentially cover both bands, I'll keep an eye out for cheap, yet still serviceable, radios for that purpose on the Internet.

So. to sum up the Blackpool rally, a good day out, but get there very early if you want a parking spot, I certainly plan to go next year but only if the weather wasn't as terrible for driving as this time.

73 de M6RSQ

Friday 3 April 2015

GB3HG access tests

As regular readers may or may not know, I am within range of two 2-meter repeaters, GB3IR, which I can hit very easily with 1 watt as it's just down the road from my QTH, and GB3HG on Sutton Bank near Thirsk, so today I decided to give HG a go.

Test conditions was set up using Baofeng UV-5RC Plus with stock antenna inside my flat.

Keying up at 1 watt was not sufficient enough to open HG, releasing the key there was no response. 5 watts appeared to be enough to open the repeater, upon releasing the key the repeater appeared to be open, however there was no one else listening to give me a report on how well the repeater was actually hearing me or even if it was at 5 watts so I may give it another go, for fairness I will use the same radio with the same antenna with the same power output.

Another nearby repeater is GB3CD but I am not within range of it at my home QTH as far as I know (was unable to hear it before they switched it over to Yaesu System Fusion, not tried since but suspect I still cannot hear it), though it doesn't matter if CD is out of range as it is on Echolink like GB3IR so can do one of two things, connect IR to CD or connect to CD through my phone or computer(s)

I'll post more on this as time permits

73 de M6RSQ

Monday 23 March 2015

First participation in the Sunday net on GB3IR

Last night was my first participation in the Sunday night net on GB3IR, most if not all the regulars were on, along with myself and 2 of the other newly qualified operators, and this revealed a problem I was having which I shall outline later.

I was happy to take part in the net as I'd been itching to since I passed my exam, this means I now have something to occupy an hour or two on a Sunday night if nothing else already has, and if I am in the car it's no problem because I have a rig in the car as well as my two handies, out of range of GB3IR I just have to connect over Echolink through my computer, phone, tablet or another Echolink enabled repeater so I have no excuse to miss out.

Now, the problem, I own a speaker mic, which I have had for some years, turns out it's so cheaply made that the audio from it is absolutely dire, I even tested it between the handhelds on a clear frequency to find out, so it means I am going to have to do of two things, new speaker mic or just use the handhelds without, both handhelds, even the Wouxun with the longer antenna at 1 watt,were operating perfectly fine, so the best thing I can do is ditch the speaker mic.

So next Sunday I will be on at the same time, unless something else takes priority of course.

73 de M6RSQ

Friday 20 March 2015

First Amateur QSOs

The following morning after obtaining my license and callsign I had my first QSO on the Amateur bands, specifically through GB3IR, with the keeper of GB3IR no less while on my way into work with me having a rig in the car.

I was again on the repeater later on that same day in QSO with some of the local regulars and one of the other newly qualified foundation licensees that passed the same day as myself, and yesterday I had a brief QSO with the remaining two who I had yet to have a QSO with at that point, though I saw them down at the club last night anyway.

I have not called out on the repeater today, but last night I did dig out my Wouxun KG-UVD1P, but sadly not it's antenna so I've put the Nagoya antenna on it which is a longer antenna anyway, I'll be giving this handheld a trial run on the Amateur bands shortly, possibly using it on the Sunday net on GB3IR, maybe good for operating simplex and potentially accessing the other nearby repeater, GB3HG.

On a final note, all Amateur radio related posts as of the day I got my license will be signed with my Amateur callsign, CB and PMR446 will be signed with my CT callsign as before, SDR related posts I will see what's what.

73 de M6RSQ

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Licensed Amateur

I am pleased to inform you all that I now hold an amateur radio foundation license, my certificate arrived today and I completed the application for the license within the last few minutes prior to posting

So, I will be able to join in on next Sunday's net on GB3IR, and will give it a go when mobile, I am also setting up Echolink at this time.

Hope to hear you on the Amateur bands real soon.

73 de M6RSQ

Monday 16 March 2015

A new week in radio

This week I should hopefully hear from RSGB (I'll let you know when I do later) regarding my Foundation exam results, also today gives me an opportunity to see if GB3IR is performing better, on it's transmit as I can't use it yet, as since the last time I traveled to Sheffield (which is out of GB3IR's range anyway) the repeater has changed for a different unit (different "k" tones and a tone at shutdown) as the one in use was not working as the keeper or other local amateurs would like.

Had I had my license before today my intent was to use GB3IR to a point during my journey today, then switch to another repeater, GB3NA in Sheffield once in range of it, though this is not on the Echolink system unlike GB3IR but would allow for some contacts regardless of this.

So, having missed out on last night's net on GB3IR, which had a larger than expected turnout as I was still able to listen, I, along with possibly all three of the others that took the exam the same day as me, should be on air next time, which will be Sunday, though I should be on GB3IR itself this coming week.

I was also thinking of seeing how many others I know would be interested in going for their foundation license, which may help to get numbers up, I still have the book of course, might be worth while.

Stay tuned, I may be updating this with news of my pass and callsign very soon

73 de 26CT730

Saturday 14 March 2015

Foundation exam, a week later

It has been a week since my foundation exam, however I have not yet heard from the RSGB meaning I still am not licensed, allowing for posting (assuming posted Monday this week) it should take a day or two (assuming first class) to reach the RSGB, up to 6 working days to mark, and then (assuming first class post again) a day or two to return back to myself.

The above would assume that the RSGB would get the results on Tuesday or Wednesday, mark my results, upload the pass to Ofcom, and send back the information I need, presumably arriving this coming week, not in time for the Sunday net on GB3IR nor in time for my journey to Sheffield this coming Monday which once again is going to be very dull.

Naturally I have been checking my mail all week, however I now have to wait even longer, and will of course check my mail again on Monday as soon as I can given that I may not be back home at any point in the day depending on how things in Sheffield turn out.

Sadly not what I had planned as I thought the RSGB would have turned this around much quicker but as they did not then I still have to wait.

In the mean time I do have PMR446 and 11-meters to use.

73 de 26CT730

Saturday 7 March 2015

Foundation exam results

As regular readers to this blog will be aware, I have taken my Amateur radio foundation exam today, the news is that I got 25 out of 26 correct, the pass mark is 19 out of 26, this means that have passed however I still need to wait for official confirmation from the RSGB, hopefully this will happen in the next week and I should be able to join the local 2m net on a Sunday evening on GB3IR, tomorrow should be my final day of listening only and both my Baofeng and Leixen can be put to the use as intended, my Wouxun can as well but I have misplaced it's original antenna at this time.

The next thing to do now is wait for the official result and log into Ofcom's licensing system once it arrives, but until then it's a small wait.

This day has been years in the making, now it is all done I can look at the next step on the ladder.

73 de 26CT730/M6 coming soon

Friday 6 March 2015

Foundation exam tomorrow

Tomorrow is my big day, my foundation exam, this means that if I pass (which I am still really confident of) I can use GB3IR as opposed to listen to it as well as be able to transmit in bands aside from 11-meters and PMR446 once I have got my license, though I won't be giving these up, also when I have my license I can finally check the SWR on my 2-meter rig and see if my Orbitor antenna can do 10-meters with no problem, though I doubt it can as I'm sure it's upper limit is 28MHz but we'll see.

Hopefully the week following my pass I can get my license and get started on the Amateur bands.

73 de 26CT730/watch this space

Monday 2 March 2015

New radios... update

I am happy to report that the CRT SS9900 is now operational in the car save for an SWR check, and it seems to work fine (can't say for transmit but receive is fine).

As I mentioned in my previous post, this rig, due to high power demands, bypasses the car's fusebox and is wired directly to the battery, this has also allowed me to tidy up all the wiring to both it and the Leixen VV-898, which is also working fine, which gave me the opportunity to listen to GB3IR over the course of my journey to and from my appointment in South Yorkshire, of course the range of GB3IR is not that far.

The battery did need to be disconnected before I could begin, and the rig's negative cable was not connected until the battery negative was connected for safety even though the rig was not connected.

The connections were, as noted above, tidied out of the way behind the glovebox and the radio fired up, working happily

Next post should hopefully be after my exam on Saturday

73 de 26CT730

Sunday 1 March 2015

New radios in car

Well, today's aim was to get the new rigs into the car, that job is not 100% complete however.

The Leixen was the easier of the two to install, wiring into where the Midland used to go, no hassle there, the rig bracket was fastened to the car's ash tray and the rig fixed to it (after two attempts), the antenna was then connected and the power connected, mic clip was fastened between the instrument panel and the stereo, that is now done other than the need to cable tie the power wires out of the way.

The CRT was a different story, this requires a direct to battery connection, this meant I had to remove the glovebox (a pain in the arse in a Peugeot 106) and put a hole through a pre-existing grommet, the cable refused to go through until I simply strapped it to a screwdriver and lubricated it with washing up liquid, it now needs pulling the rest of the way with pliers, however there was another issue, that of the fuse on the positive line (there is one on the negative line as well), this disintegrated when I removed it from the fuse holder, meaning an emergency trip to Halfords for a new one in the morning, not what I wanted.

The above means that the CRT is in it's final position, with mic on other side of stereo though still within my reach from the driver's seat, but with no electrical supply, add to that rain and later on snow prevented me from doing as much work under the bonnet as I could have, as well as a lack of pliers to pull the wire through.

Despite the issues installing the CRT I am happy so far, the Leixen will be on and tuned to GB3IR when I head to Darlington early tomorrow and later on when I head to South Yorkshire for an appointment, by which time the CRT should also be operational and tuned to an active frequency, most likely FM voice as SSB frequencies will always require adjustment of the clarifier/RIT and I can't be doing that while driving.

More tomorrow all being well

73 de 26CT730

Saturday 28 February 2015

New radios arrived

Today I went out before the arrival of the gas engineer to collect the Leixen VV-898, and indeed it is a compact rig.

As I was starting to programme it and see what it was able to do, I received a notification that the CRT SS9900 was ready to be collected, so I got in the car and made the trip to the collection point, giving the Baofeng handheld it's final outing in the car and on the mobile antenna.

The SS9900 was put on to an ATX power supply to allow me to programme it, this is because there would not be enough current delivery from the bench power supply for this rig and also I had already connected the VV-898 to that supply.

The next part is to install both these radios to the car, the SS9900, due to it's heavy current drain once I am licensed to use such high powers, has to be connected to the battery, the VV-898 has a lower current drain so can use the existing wiring for the Midland CB save for the negative feed, the VV-898 will be fastened in place with double-sided tape as it's very light, the SS9900 will use self-tapping bolts much like the Midland currently does.

So in a week I should have passed my exam and a little while after that should be on the air

73 de 26CT730

Friday 27 February 2015

Updates on new radios

I have updates on the new radios arriving very soon, they are as follows.

The Leixen VV-898 is currently at my local sorting office pending collection, tomorrow I have an extremely small time frame in which to collect the rig and return it here, the CRT SS9900 I have not received notification for yet, this may come over the weekend however it may come on Monday instead.

The Leixen should be going in the car this weekend after a gas inspection that I am overdue, the CRT may be delayed in installation due to late delivery, though it should be done by the time I am licensed, this will mean the Midland will have to be removed from the car as there will be no room for it though this should not be a major task.

Both radios will be connected to the shack computer for programming to make them a little more user friendly, tomorrow I start with the Leixen, hopefully by Monday I will have the CRT as well.

Tomorrow is a week before the exam, the coming week will be long, very long.

73 de 26CT730

Thursday 26 February 2015

New radios on order

I have put on order 2 new radios, the CRT SS9900 (which is the AnyTone AT6666 with CRT badges on it) and the Leixen VV-898, which I decided to bring forward so I could have it in the car and not carry the Baofeng or a fiddly adaptor around.

I have had the CRT SS9900 ordered for collection at an undisclosed location nearby, the Leixen will be mailed to me as per normal (though may have to be picked up one morning from the sorting office), these will be installed at the first available opportunity in the car.

All prepared for my foundation pass so I can get on air immediately when my license is in effect.

73 de 26CT730

Monday 23 February 2015

2/70 antenna tests

Having the new 2/70 antenna on the car in readiness for the Leixen VV-898 and my foundation pass I connected up my Baofeng (with the speaker mic for better audio) and left it tuned to GB3IR to see how well this antenna works for receive at the very least, as the repeater was not in use all I had to rely on was the periodic idents and any incoming connections from Echolink, as I was leaving Northallerton I heard the repeater announce that it was there, a few miles closer I heard an incoming Echolink connection followed by a timeout alert a few minutes thereafter, seems it's working on receive, the real test will be on the VV-898 which will be the permanent 2/70 rig for the car as my Baofeng is for when I am not mobile.

Overall I am satisfied the antenna is working for receive, transmit will be checked when I am licensed

73 de 26CT730

Saturday 21 February 2015

Temporary 2/70 antenna on car

After my last post I went out today and picked up a small antenna capable of transmit on 2-meters and 70cm, this antenna has not upset the CB antenna in any way but it has not had it's SWR checked for obvious reasons, though it should be fine to get me on the air when I have my license and have checked the SWR.

I connected the antenna up to my Baofeng, and it does work on receive, although most frequencies that I did check seemed to be dead at the time so not a good way to test the new antenna.

As I am driving over to Northallerton on Monday night I can see if it can pull in GB3IR from that distance, I see no reason why not though as it is,in typical repeater fashion, located high up for best coverage possible, it also depends on the radio, which will be the Baofeng, and how well that can also pull in the signals, the antenna cable is RG174/U rather than RG58 and the magmount is the size of a 10p or as near as makes no difference this size, but it is a powerful magnet so should hold onto the car with no problems.

I'll post results on Monday

73 de 26CT730

Leixen VV-898 compact mobile VHF/UHF radio

I became aware of a gem of a radio on the Charlie Tango forums, the Leixen VV-898, this radio is extremely compact so will fit in the smallest of spaces in the smallest of cars, and it is perfect for the foundation license holder in that it is maximum power of 10 watts.

Originally I was going to use my Wouxun in the car, however after seeing this rig it meant I could have something a little more permanent, the theory is that I should be able to use this radio to get into GB3IR from a little further away, this is in part due to my Wouxun only putting out 5 watts on VHF and 4 watts on UHF, my recently acquired Baofeng is similar in this regard.

Wiring this new rig into the car should not be that difficult, it wasn't for the CB though the power cables were too short, so I don't see any major issue with this rig, I will more than likely need some new reels of wire from Halfords though.

This rig retails at less than £100, Moonraker sell it for £99 give or take, Martin Lynch & Sons sell it for £90 with a programming cable or £80 without, though to be honest the story is always the same with all these Chinese radios, buy a programming cable.

This radio, like all the Chinese made VHF/UHF radios, can transmit on the PMR446 frequencies with the correct steps, but you do this at your own risk, I take no responsibility for illegal use of radio equipment.

With two weeks left to go before my foundation exam (yes, it's two weeks today) I have decided that once I pass (which I have every confidence that I will) I will get this rig ordered the same day, installed by the following weekend, with the antenna SWR check done at Whashton Road car park as per my usual routine for setting up mobile rigs, unless the proximity to GB3IR causes problems, which it should not do, or I have not received the needed information from RSGB before that date to get my license from Ofcom, I have, however, found out that these radios, or at least more recent ones, are equipped with a BNC connector as opposed to an SO239, this means an adaptor will be needed, but I can deal with that when I need to.

I will post a quick video to YouTube as well

Another rig to show up for me soon will be the Anytone AT6666 as I plan to order one of these when I get paid next week, probably with another YouTube video as well.

73 de 26CT730

Sunday 15 February 2015

SDR mod complete (or kind of)

My RTL-SDR stick is now inside it's tin submerged in Aldi's own brand cooking oil (other discount supermarkets are available) and it seems to work fine and drift appears to be reduced greatly, there is one issue that occurred however.

The Neutrik USB connector and BNC connector are both coated with silicone sealant underneath, though it does not react with cooking oil the connectors aren't properly sealed and leak by a small amount when the lid is pressed on, not good, to remedy this I have decided to use Sugru, which may require me to temporarily remove the lid of the can to deal with, around the outside edges of the connectors.

The stick has little noise (due to a mod to the cable between the "A" side of the Neutrik and the stick itself, the shielding of the tin, and, of course, the cooling, it is currently placed on my bedroom windowsill and connected using a high quality Belkin USB cable.

Reception wise so far, as I am temporarily utilising the Nagoya NA-771 antenna, has been GB3IR, PMR446 channel 1 (which I was using for some tests to check drift and at the same time was in use by children as is normally the case), CB channel UK19 (me again for drift tests), the PPM correction ONLY had to be reduced.

This whole idea came from SDR for Mariners and the author seems to be bang on the money here, the stick can't get that hot if in oil, refrigeration may help further.

To make the most of the SDR I will naturally need a better antenna, the NA-771 is a 2/70 antenna, meaning it is only any good in VHF and UHF frequencies, and doesn't make a good scanner antenna, so that may need rectification.

In the mean time I think it's best to stress test the stick in its new enclosure.

73 de 26CT730

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Assessments done, exam to do

All my Amateur radio foundation assessments were completed last night, this means I can now sit my exam on the 7th March, this will take place at the club as per the norm.

Though I've taken exams before this, as this is on subject matter I know reasonably well I am very confident that I will pass, all I need to do is remember the golden rule, read the questions.

I should find out on the day if I have passed but won't get an official result until my exam paper is marked by RSGB, once I have an official result I can get my license (online for free) and join in the Sunday 2m net on GB3IR as I know all those that normally take part in it from the club and it would be a good start, also I can then sort out setting up Echolink, I already have the app (that's how confident I am) and just need to send them a valid license which I should have in March

At the club we have an HF rig so I may use that as well for some other contacts if it's on frequencies I am allowed to use, with the power turned down to what I can use of course if using my own callsign rather than that of the club.

This will be a long month to wait but my next step is Intermediate which I will begin as soon as I can do so.

73 de 26CT730/(watch this space)

Sunday 25 January 2015

PMR446 gateway update and potential mobile 2m/70cm (including PMR446) installation

So, with my finances now improving a new radio (and a brand-new auto-key circuit) can be sorted out for the PMR446 gateway, as well as something for mobile use on PMR446 as well as 2m and 70cm once I have my amateur license (early March), however my radio time is reduced now as I have since taken up full-time employment.

As you know, the PMR446 gateway has been off air for a while due to very little in the way of power on the existing Intek rig, so a new radio is needed, with a new job comes increased income and a possibility of a suitable radio, however as the auto-key circuit is also, for lack of a better term, kaput, a new one is needed, this will involve a trip to Maplin for the new parts, possibly a radio as they also sell these, though may need to order the radio in advance.

For in-car 2/70 use, a magnetic antenna is all I really need, placed out of the way of the CB antenna as that could upset it, a mobile holder, and, to begin with, a battery eliminator circuit for the Wouxun, otherwise a standard PMR set with a detachable antenna for PMR446 (the pro ones are like this) for use on PMR446, the Wouxun is not type-approved for PMR446 so clearly cannot use that.

So, I should have the PMR446 gateway back up and running in the next week or so

73 de 26CT730

Wednesday 7 January 2015

The War Against PLT... Ofcom propose to finally do something

Today it came to my attention that Ofcom, the regulator of all things TV and radio, plan to propose regulations that will allow them to enforce the use of PLT devices should they cause undue interference (which is a by-product of their operation as they inject RF into mains wiring which is unbalanced and acts as an antenna) to wireless telegraphy.

A consultation is online now at Ofcom's website and I urge everyone reading this to respond, because the more responses there is then Ofcom will be aware of just how bad the situation with PLT really is.

I've driven through a few towns with the CB in the car lately, some of the noise I have heard break the squelch has been similar to the PLT garbage, sat on top of the hill tonight there is no PLT noise whatsoever as I was a distance from the houses (though not from the power lines).

So, are Ofcom going to join the rest of the radio community in the war against PLT? Hopefully, this will be a victory for common sense.

73 de 26CT730

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Midweek nets

I've been aware for some time of some midweek nets running up and down the UK, until now I've not been able to participate in them.

These midweek nets normally take place for a couple of hours on a Wednesday evening, however I do not intend to use the Midland for this, instead I will be using the President Grant 2 running off my sealed lead-acid battery rather than risk discharching the car battery, for simplicity I will be using the antenna on the car rather than the T2LT.

I should be on air from around 6:30pm tomorrow night, static mobile, more than likely at Whashton Road, in the summer months I probably will make the drive up to Tan Hill again for a DX net and maybe the odd midweek net as that would be the best time.

The battery I use for portable operations is now charging, I have programmed specific channels into the memory storage of the Grant 2, though I do not know if it will retain the memory channels or not, I will take along the dummy load and SWR meter just to be safe and make sure everything is working as it should be when I connect the Grant 2 to the car's antenna.

Hope to hear you and talk to you on air tomorrow night

73 de 26CT730

Friday 2 January 2015

Mobile CB install now operational

After spending many hours working on it the CB radio is now installed and working, and surprisingly well.

First off, the radio, it is wired to the fusebox via a spare circuit (Peugeot in their wisdom included pretty much every circuit for every optional accessory the car could have) for +12v DC, for negative it is connected to a handy point in the chassis as the car is negative earth, the radio is on the top of the dashboard above the stereo, as it's the Midland 78+ Multi the mic socket is conveniently on the driver's side.

Secondly, the antenna, this is on my awful magmount which has had it's rubber protector repaired with Sugru, which has not had any negative effects at all, the cable enters via the boot, and is hidden behind most trim panels on the passenger side.

With the power and the antenna all in place it was then time to drive up to Whashton Road car park, my favourite radio playground as it's higher than my flat, to check SWR, the antenna just simply screwed into the magmount, placed behind a sunroof and not adjusted in any other way gave me a reading of 1:1.5 at channel 1 midblock (test was FM), this progressively dropped the further towards the Muppet band I went and stayed very low, all in all a good job well done, so if you want a cheap and affordable means of communications in your Peugeot 106 then CB is your answer.

Needless to say my "1-9 for a rig check" calls went ignored on UK19, there were people on it and I could hear them so they should have been able to hear me, typical 19 hogging morons, now to put it to good use I think.

I put the radio into "E" band (which is 4 watt AM/FM) to listen to any AM traffic on CEPT, fair bit coming in from the states and some SSB transmissions as well in a few areas, I put the radio back to "UK" band (making it FM only again) so I had access to 27/81 and could have a listen on the way back down home, only muppets on 19 tonight.

73 de 26CT730

Thursday 1 January 2015

Mobile CB installation one step closer

First of all I want to wish all my readers a very happy and prosperous New Year, hope to maybe even hear you on the air this year.

Now, as you read in my last post, I had plans to buy a car, I have since bought a car and it's on the road, though this car is fitted with a sunroof meaning the antenna can't go where I want it, and I can't see any obvious way into the headliner to drill a hole for a stud mount so may have to use a magmount temporarily.

I have yet to install the rig, this may well be a weekend job but I may have found a suitable place for it, I just need to sort out the electrical arrangements to the rig, I still want to do a direct power feed to the battery with a relay controlling the supply so the rig is isolated with the ignition off, I don't wish to wire it via the car's fuse box in case this puts noise on the radio from electronics in the car, though there isn't much electronic in that car as it's on an R registration.

So hopefully in the next few weeks I may be heard on FM and AM mobile (but not SSB as I don't want that rig permanently in the car, so perhaps static mobile on that one), also ideal for non-hobby use as I can be in contact with truck drivers and get ahead of any traffic problems.

73 de 26CT730